Thursday, August 28, 2014

I'm Feeling Rather Week

I once did a retrospective photo essay of TV Guide covers that dredged up some wonderful memories for some of my readers along with some beautiful and fun photo covers. Today I'm going to go a similar route, but with TV Guide's bastard stepchild, the flimsy, free newspaper insert that usually came in the Sunday edition of folks' local paper. Freed from the pressure to sell copies on the newsstand, these often featured less broadly-known personalities and programs and could risk going with someone or something less familiar (though the stars certainly do appear as well.) These are from a variety of U.S. papers, the chief thread tying them together being the title TV Week.

Tennessee Ernie Ford was a longstanding, popular TV variety host and performer (his baritone rendition of “Sixteen Tons” might be familiar to you?) during the 1950s and '60s. Here, we see a promotion for one of his specials in 1970, in which he surrounded himself with an array of lovelies such as Joey Heatherton, Shirley Jones, Barbara Feldon and Eva Gabor.

Popular '60s vocalist Engelbert Humperdinck had his own short-lived variety series in 1969-1970 and is pictured on this cover. Handsome Humperdinck was the guest host of The Hollywood Palace in 1969, the time Nancy Ames and her hair made an unforgettable appearance (unforgettable around here anyway!)

Sexy Stella Stevens is depicted on this cover thanks to the broadcast that week of the little-known 1966 movie Rage, in which she played a woman of easy virtue who finds herself helping a rabies victim (Glenn Ford) make his way through the Mexican desert for help. This used to be shown every so often on cable channels, but seems to have fallen through the cracks as of late.

This next cover showcases two Hee Haw honeys who are temporarily released from the haystacks and their midriff-baring plaid tops and cut-off denim shorts! Instead Gunilla Hutton and Dianne Scott are permitted some comely black get-ups in front of a mod backdrop.

Now we come to a very laid-back (high?!) Peter Fonda, who was fresh off the staggering success of 1969's Easy Rider and would soon begin work on his pet project The Hired Hand (1971.)

As we traipse from 1970 into 1971, we find Lucie Arnaz, then costarring on her mother Lucille Ball's series Here's Lucy. Her tenure on that show ran from 1968-1974, after which her work on TV and in movies became more sporadic. She did proceed to Broadway in 1979 with They're Playing Our Song and then worked as a replacement in both Lost in Yonkers and Dirty Rotten Scoundrels.

Longtime spouses and collaborators Eli Wallach and Anne Jackson are shown in character from the filmed rendition of their two-character play The Typists, all about a pair of employees who work side-by-side in an office for many years, revealing various funny, sad and thought-provoking moments along the way. We just lost Mr. Wallach in June at age ninety-eight, but Jackson is still going at eighty-seven. They were married sixty-six years!

Earth II (1971) was a series pilot that intended to depict life at a space station and was to star Gary Lockwood (costar of 1968's blockbuster 2001: A Space Odyssey), but despite that (and a supporting cast that included everyone from Anthony Franciosa to Inga Swenson to Lew Ayres and more) it was not picked up.

You know that the 1970s was a very fertile period for TV-movies (I have profiled many of them here in my TV Movie Time Tunnel series of posts) and while many are so cheesy, if entertaining, many are also staggeringly good and yet rarely ever seen! One that looks as if it were among the second grouping (if the cast is any indication) is All the Way Home with Joanne Woodward, Richard Kiley, Pat Hingle, Eileen Heckart, Barnard Hughes and even a young James Woods. It concerns Woodward's fate after her husband dies unexpectedly, leaving her pregnant and with a five year-old son. It's also interesting that the FAR more famous Brian's Song was relegated to an article inside and not the front cover.)

Everyone on earth has heard of The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968) and even its follow-up Mayberry RFD (1968-1971, which didn't star Griffith), but how many of you know about The New Andy Griffith Show (1971)?? Lasting only 10 episodes, it had Griffith playing a state government worker who moves back to his small hometown (no, not Mayberry!) to serve as mayor. The slapped-together program offended fans of the original by having a very similar character (only the last names were different) married to a different wife (Lee Meriwether) and with two kids, yet having the gall to use guest stars from the real series in their original guises!

Recent Oscar-winner Helen Hayes popped up in the TV-movie Do Not Fold, Spindle or Mutilate (1971) in which she and three friends (Mildred Natwick, Sylvia Sydney and Myrna Loy!) create an imaginary girl for a computer dating service, but inadvertently attract a nutjob played by Vince Edwards in the process! The success of this telefilm (where is it now?!) led to Hayes and Natwick appearing in their own mystery show The Snoop Sisters, which was briefly part of The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie series.

TV Guide had (and still has) its annual issue with the lowdown on all the upcoming fall shows and TV Week offered up its version in this 1972 installment. The Julie Andrews Hour featured many fabulous guest stars and musical moments (and won seven Emmys!), but was canned after 24 episodes in the face of competition such as Cannon, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The Bob Newhart Show. Bridget Loves Bernie lasted the same number of episodes before being canceled. Starring real-life married couple David and Meredith Baxter Birney, it centered on two newlywed cab drivers from vastly different backgrounds. Banacek was relatively more successful, running two years under the NBC Mystery Movie umbrella, but when the network attempted to renew it for a third season, star George Peppard abruptly quit because his ex-wife Elizabeth Ashley was entitled to part of his earnings from the show and he didn't want to continue under those circumstances!

A more successful show from 1972 was The Bob Newhart Show, which costarred Suzanne Pleshette seen here. The landmark sitcom lasted until 1978, the year after its popular lead-in The Mary Tyler Moore Show went off the air causing a general dip in ratings. Pleshette struggled to regain a regular foothold on TV, though Newhart eventually found success again with Newhart (1982-1990), a sitcom which cleverly and surprisingly included Pleshette in its memorable series finale.

The TV presentation of a 1931 George and Ira Gershwin musical takes center stage on this cover. Of Thee I Sing told the spoofy tale of a U.S. President (Carroll O'Connor) who stumbles into the White House while wanting to marry down-to-earth Cloris Leachman, but having beauty contestant Michele Lee foisted upon him. The updated, shortened rendition (with a cast including Jim Backus, Jack Gilford and David Doyle) was not deemed successful and has scarcely been seen since.

Crossover country singer Jerry Reed was enjoying widespread success when he took on the summer replacement series with the unwieldy name The Jerry Reed When You're Hot Your Hot Hour, derived from his hit song “When You're Hot, You're Hot.” Later, he would focus on acting, supporting Burt Reynolds in W.W. And the Dixie Dance Kings (1975), Smokey and the Bandit (1977) and several other films.

Check out the lean, big-haired goodness of JoAnn Pflug and fellow guest Britt Ekland (what an unusual pairing, don't you think?!) being promoted for an episode of Dennis Weaver's fish-out-of-water detective series McCloud. In the ep, they play international stewardesses who are also murderous jewel thieves! Ah, the '70s...

Sharon Acker was a pretty busy 1960s and '70s actress, appearing as a guest on Star Trek and in many made-for-TV movies, but I suspect that not many people realize she was once cast in Barbara Hale's old role of Della Street (of Perry Mason fame.) The 1973 TV season brought with it The New Perry Mason, starring Monte Markham as the stalwart defense attorney as Acker as his girl Friday. The unwelcome redeux sank like a stone and was cancelled after 14 installments.

Does anyone remember this actress (no it's not Shirley MacLaine! Ha!)? Named Deirdre Lenihan, she won a coveted role on the sitcom Needles and Pins (after coming close, but failing to win the prior season's Bridget Loves Bernie.) Pins folded after 14 episodes, but she continued to work on TV shows like Police Woman, Emergency! and a limited run on The Waltons. In 1973, she married familiar character actor James Sloyan (to whom she is still wed) and their daughter is now a working actress as well.

I bet that few can name the series depicted on this 1974 cover. Featuring Dom DeLuise as the manager of a bus company's lost and found department (!), it focused on his relationships with domineering mother Kathleen Freeman, whiny sister Beverly Sanders (pictured with him) and her bum of a husband. (Sanders did hundreds of Arm & Hammer baking soda ads if she seems at all familiar.) The one-season sitcom was called Lotsa Luck. A remake of a British show called On the Buses, it is actually available now on DVD!

Rosalind Russell fans ought to enjoy this sketch of her as she takes part in something called Women of the Year (not listed at Not long after this, the great actress would be suffering from dire health. (Joan Crawford fans will recall the ill-fated 1974 outing in which a medication-bloated Russell and a less-than-skillfully wigged Crawford caused Crawford to never again be seen again in public!) Russell died in 1976 after a wicked bout with breast cancer.

Here's another long-forgotten 1973 show, Calucci's Department, which starred James Coco as the head of a New York City Unemployment Office and grappling with various types of people. Notice Candice Azzara clinging to Coco's arm and just above her Peggy Pope, who among many other things played the neighbor of The Golden Girls whose husband starts a fight over who's going to pay for some fallen tree damage.

Stage, movie and perpetual TV guest actress Susan Strasberg's chance for a regular paycheck came with the 1973 undercover cop series Toma, in which she played the lead character's wife. Unfortunately, the series' star Tony Musante opted not to take part in a second season because he disliked the direction (lighter and less serious and gritty) that producers seemed to be heading in. So the concept was retooled, renamed Baretta and recast with Robert Blake (but no Strasberg, as Baretta was single...)

In 1974, television variety series icon Jack Benny did Jack Benny's Second Farewell Show, a special in which he and longtime pal George Burns played Roman fountain statues amidst a selection of guest stars like Redd Foxx, Dinah Shore, Johnny Carson and Don Rickles. Benny actually had a third “Farewell” special in the works when he died of cancer late in 1974 at age eighty. Burns, of course, went on to be one-hundred!

Man, I wish I would have known about this next one back when I did my Pop Quiz on TV shows that were based upon hit movies. The 1974 series on this cover only lasted for 6 episodes and was called The New Land, based on a noted Swedish film of the same name from two years prior that starred Max Von Sydow and Liv Ullmann. This incarnation starred the now-unknown Scott Thomas, Bonnie Bedelia and a twentysomething Kurt Russell.

This was the year that The Hudson Brothers burst onto the television scene, having experienced moderate success as a music group beforehand. With the hit song “So You Are a Star” giving rise to their visibility and the novelty of the family element, they had a variety series that began in prime time for a month before morphing into a Saturday morning program. Then they began to recede from the spotlight. Bill Hudson (at the top) married Goldie Hawn and is the father of Oliver and Kate Hudson, later marrying Cindy Williams for a dozen years as well.

Did you know that Anne Bancroft had her own variety special (these sorts of shows were EVERYWHERE in the 1970s and then disappeared almost completely.) Annie and the Hoods had our star checking out various locales (“'hoods”... get it?) along with husband Mel Brooks, Carl Reiner, Gene Wilder, David Merrick (!), Robert Merrill, Tony Curtis and, in his final performance ever, Jack Benny.

Moving on to 1975, we find yet another forgotten show, this one called McCoy and starring Tony Curtis. He played a con man who bilked deserving bad guys out of money. As part of The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie series, it rotated with other shows in two-hour installments. Apart from Columbo, the series had enjoyed success with McCloud and McMillan & Wife, so the name McCoy was meant to be lucky, but it wasn't. The show never even got to half a dozen episodes before cancellation.

Now we're talking! Even though the Mel Brooks-produced show When Things Were Rotten was not a success, many people cannot forget grinning Dick Gautier frolicking around in his Robin Hood tights alongside a gallery of other comedians. He certainly made an impression on this tyke and I was once told by Dick's granddaughter that he knows about some of the teen boy crushes that were applied to him and even has a copy of the book “When I Knew,” in which he is noted, on his coffee table at home! Love him...

What a fun shot of these two song and dance dames, Juliet Prowse and Diahann Carroll. This was for the obscure telecast of The 1975 Fashion Awards, which Carroll co-hosted with John Davidson (!) and which also feature that incredible style icon Ken Berry (of Mama's Family!) We'll likely never get a glimpse at that show, but this picture is fun, isn't it?

Another gathering of divas takes place in this shot promoting that year's Tony Awards broadcast. Here we see Bernadette Peters, Michele Lee and Carol Lawrence all decked out for the occasion. On what must have been either a busy stage or else a light workload for all involved, these three ladies co-hosted The 29th Annual Tony Awards along with three gents: George Irving, Larry Kert and Bobby Van!

Her new chat-fest coming to the airwaves the year before, Dinah Shore was featured on the 1975 cover for her participation on Dinah!, which lasted until 1980. Shore had enjoyed success as a variety show performer and hostess from 1951 to 1962 and in 1971 had offered up Dinah's Place for several years. Dinah! would eventually be renamed Dinah and Friends and after its cancellation, her workload lessened, though she did host a program on The Nashville Network called A Conversation with Dinah from 1989-1992 (the half hour show being expanded to a full hour on the day she chatted with former love Burt Reynolds.)

Having stolen scenes on The Mary Tyler Moore Show from 1970 on, Cloris Leachman was granted her own spin-off series Phyllis in 1975. Though it limped along for two seasons, it never really caught on the way most folks anticipated it to. A horrible shock came three episodes in when costar Barbara Colby was shot dead for no reason whatsoever by some street thugs in Los Angeles. Ms. Leachman continued a busy, active, memorable career in movies and on TV and is currently eighty-eight years old, still working regularly!

The popular variety show format found yet another host in 1976 with handsome Frankie Avalon with the short-lived Easy Does It...Starring Frankie Avalon. Had this come along a little later, when Grease (1978) kicked off a nostalgia wave and featured Avalon as Teen Angel, it might have lasted longer, but at this stage, few people were tuning in. It did give him a chance to reunite with Annette Funicello, who guest-starred on the program.

Another major league format of the 1970s was the miniseries. Huge blocks of network airtime were devoted to sprawling, star-filled stories that spanned generations. The first one was QB VII (1974) followed by the one depicted here, Rich Man, Poor Man. Peter Strauss, Susan Blakely and Nick Nolte (who soared to fame thanks to this) were the chief stars though many other names dotted the large cast. Its success laid the groundwork for future hits such as Roots (1977) and The Winds of War (1983) among many others.

Gee... I can't imagine why this western series didn't catch on. Sara starred the fabulous Miss Brenda Vaccaro, but look at the ungodly tacky styling and presentation! Despite little being known of this show ( has scarce info and Wikipedia doesn't even list it!), Vaccaro did score an Emmy nomination for her work on it. (Michael Learned won for The Waltons.)

Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy fans surely recall their first pairing in the 1942 film Woman of the Year, about dueling journalists. Did you know, though, that the property was remade as a TV-movie starring real-life married couple Joe Bologna and Renee Taylor?! Woman of the Year (1976) was likely intended as a series pilot, but a regular show didn't come to fruition.

As we shift into 1977, we kick things off with Shaun Cassidy and Parker Stevenson of The Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, which was a big favorite of mine as a kid. I was actually more interested at the time in Pamela Sue Martin (of The Poseidon Adventure, 1972) as Nancy, but eventually grew to like these guys as well. Before the series finished its three-year run, Martin had departed and after some unsuccessful recasting, the Hardys wound up being the sole stars of the program.

When you think about TV soap stars today, all buff and toned and slickered down for the cameras, it's a bit shocking to see the type of performers who once held audiences in their grasp. Take daytime legends Bill and Susan Seaforth Hayes who were major players in the success of Days of Our Lives. She began on the show in 1968 and he joined two years later. Married in real life in 1974, they have continued to play their roles of Julie and Doug all this time off and on! He is eighty-nine and she is seventy-one.

We mentioned before the TV miniseries genre (which included so many projects, many of which have fallen through the cracks into obscurity now.) Recognize this pouting panther featured on the cover of TV Week from 1977? From the miniseries Seventh Avenue, all about power struggles in the garment industry, this is Anne Archer! (I guess the caption on the cover does rather give it away! LOL)

Another miniseries that year featured a not-quite-famous Tommy Lee Jones as The Amazing Howard Hughes. He soon shot to fame in high profile movies like The Betsy (1978), Eyes of Laura Mars (1978) and Coal Miner's Daughter (1980.) Reportedly, Warren Beatty (who would have been pretty good, I think) was offered $1 million to play this part, but refused it, so Jones took it on for a scant $25,000 and made a name for himself.

This cover depicts the infamous 1976-1977 program The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, which had the fictional Bradys of the 1969-1974 sitcom suddenly propelled into musical comedy stardom and hosts of a weekly show! Eve Plumb (“Jan Brady”) was the sole holdout from this enterprise and so a former child actress and singer Geri Reischl was cast in her place, forever branding the young lady as “Fake Jan.” Though her acting career dried up directly after this, it almost wasn't the case as she'd been hired to costar in a pilot called "Garrett's Girls" and the series was sold. However, a commercial contract with General Mills conflicted with the schedule, so she was replaced in the show by Lisa Welchel. The show, renamed The Facts of Life, ran from 1979 to 1988!

Beth Howland fans might like this shot of her in character as kooky, clumsy waitress Vera from the long-running sitcom Alice (1976-1985.) Broadway actress Howland is the only other person besides star Linda Lavin to have appeared in all 202 episodes of the show. (Somewhere along the line Vic Tayback missed being in two.) Since that series' cancellation, Howland has made only occasional appearances on TV.

In honor of the 75th anniversary of the Ford Motor Company, a star-packed spectacle called A Salute to American Imagination offered up play excerpts, musical performances and comedic sketches. Apart from hosts Telly Savalas, Madeline Kahn, Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward (yes, this foursome!), there were many, many others from Henry Fonda to Ray Charles to Aretha Franklin to a very imposing looking Ethel Merman. As a kid who was frightened of everything, this edition of TV Week would have had me cowering under the love seat until the following Sunday!

Long before her scene-stealing role as Livia on The Sopranos (1999-2000), which she only exited due to her own death, Nancy Marchand made a very strong impression on Ed Asner's series Lou Grant. She won four Emmys between 1978 and 1982, being beaten only once in 1979 when Kristy McNichol of Family managed to nab one.

A very hot “flavor of the month” in 1977-'78 was Dan Haggarty of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams, a rugged outdoor drama based on a picturesque movie of the same name from 1974 (in which he also starred.) This cover shows him taking part in one of the once-popular Circus of the Stars specials which featured TV actors and actresses performing various tricks and skills following a brief period of intense training.

The mega-hit sitcom Happy Days came onto the airwaves in 1974 and by 1979 had long since hit its stride. However, star Ron Howard would only remain until 1980, in order to pursue directing, with a couple of brief returns along the way until it was cancelled in 1984. Henry Winkler, on the other hand was with the series all along, appearing in every episode along with Marion Ross and Tom Bosley.

Here's a fun little shot of diminutive Gary Coleman of Diff'rent Strokes (1978-1986) fame. At this point the series had only been on for a little over a season. The series had come about when Conrad Bain, fresh off Maude, was slated for his own series and a planned update of The Little Rascals, to star Coleman, was abandoned after he'd done the pilot (as Stymie, not Buckwheat!) The stars were then mashed together after a concept was devised and thus Strokes was born!

Before hits like Police Academy (1984) and Cocoon (1985) and misses like – God help us – Can't Stop the Music (1980), Steve Guttenberg was a fledgling actor who followed up small movie parts with his very own sitcom called Billy. Billy was all about a mortician's clerk who experienced vivid Walter Mitty-ish fantasies in which he led a far more colorful and adventuresome life. The show was canned, however, after just 7 episodes.

One more miniseries, this one quite a hit, was From Here to Eternity, an extended adaptation of the 1953 movie. William Devane took on Burt Lancaster's role while Natalie Wood had Deborah Kerr's. Other cast members included the then-hot Steve Railsbeck (in Montgomery Clift's role), Joe Pantoliano (in Frank Sinatra's Oscr-winning part) and Kim Basinger (in the role Donna Reed won an Oscar for.) This time out, Wood won a Golden Globe, but it was the only awards recognition of any kind that the project received.

In the wake of Grease (1978), Stockard Channing fielded an offer for her own TV series and the result was Stockard Channing in Just Friends. The focus of the show was her character of a health spa assistant manager whose marriage is coming to an end. Folks like Gerrit Graham and Mimi Kennedy surrounded her during the “antics” of this set-up. The series was actually pulling in decent ratings when it was left off the next season's schedule after 13 episodes (back then, networks could be a little less grateful for a 20.2 share than they would be now!) It was retooled into The Stockard Channing Show with some changes (now she was a consumer reporter), but it was kaput after 13 episodes as well.

1979 was the year that Susan Anton happened. The 5'11” beauty queen and model had done some TV guest roles until winning the lead in a movie called Goldengirl (1979), all about a young lady strenuously conditioned to win an Olympic gold medal in track. Trouble was, the U.S. Pulled out of the Olympics that time, hampering the plot line quite a bit. Then she was cast in Cliffhangers, a series with three parts each week, always ending in, you guessed it, a cliffhanger! Her segment was Stop Susan Williams and though the series ended before her storyline was up, a TV-Movie (The Girl Who Saved the World) rebroadcast the story complete with an ending. Though Anton has continued to work in the ensuing years, that was the period of her biggest push for stardom. She is now in her mid-sixties.

My final cover is a tad out of sequence, the reason being that I wanted to pay special attention to it. On the surface, it's nothing more than a glitzy shot of dynamic singer-dancer-actress Ann-Margret promoting one of her sparkling TV specials.

However, the portrait is a bit notorious because years later in 1989, mega-successful talk show titan Oprah Winfrey was displayed on the cover of TV Guide astride a pile of money and it turned out that a conceptual artist had put Ms. Winfrey's head atop Ann-Margret's eleven years prior body! Even the ring on A-M's finger was copied! It caused a minor scandal at the time, though in these photoshop-crazed days, it's difficult to believe ANY photo one sees in a magazine or online. You truly wouldn't believe what goes on to make stars look their best.